Repaying the NHS

Written by Penny Gibbs on .

In this blog, David Hardy the patient panel secretary of Audley Health Centre, tells us why he helped to establish his local PPG and the essential ingredients every PPG needs to succeed.

Earlier this year my wife and I (pictured) were invited to the House of Lords where I was presented with the British Citizen’s Award for services to the community. It was a huge honour to be nominated by the practice manager at my local GP surgery where I, along with several other patients, have spent the past six years working to give patients a major voice in the local NHS.

You might wonder why a man who spent 20 years working in the coal industry would want to spend his retirement volunteering. Well, 12 years ago I spent 18 weeks in hospital being treated for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus (SLE). It was a difficult time for me and my family, but the wonderful treatment I received from the NHS doctors and nurses who treated me made the experience a little easier on us all. It was this experience that led me to commit to do all I could to repay the NHS for the care I received.

As soon as I was well enough I worked with a group of other patients and the practice manager to start the Audley Health Centre patient panel. It took time to get off the ground but we now have 14 members as well as a virtual group which gives patients who want to take part, but can’t attend the meetings, an opportunity to have their say. We get involved in lots of different activities to support the practice, especially during flu season when we help signpost patients and promote other services like the online booking system and the ‘beat the cold’ project.

I’ve been asked a number of times if there’s a secret formula to getting, and keeping, patients involved in healthcare. Unfortunately there isn’t, but there are a couple of essential ingredients which can really help.

The first is commitment – without both the practice and the patients committing time and energy to building the PPG, it simply won’t work. The second is a willingness to work together with the shared goal of giving patients a meaningful voice in the NHS. Without these two things our patient panel wouldn’t have grown and we wouldn’t have the great relationship with the practice staff who we know listen to, and value our views.

Our patient panel also works closely with North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). As the patient panel’s representative on the CCG’s patient congress and the patient representative on the CCG’s governing body, I’ve seen first-hand how information successfully flows between patients and the people making decisions about local healthcare services – the ultimate aim for effective patient engagement.

I think the next challenge for PPGs is to find new and innovative way to involve more young people. There are currently two young people on the CCG’s patient congress and they have been invaluable in giving their perspective on health issues affecting young people.

I am extremely proud of what the Audley Health Centre patient panel have achieved over the past few years; in fact, I am extremely proud of the NHS and its staff who work tirelessly for our benefit. I realise that not everyone has as much time as I do to get involved in a PPG, but I believe we all have a duty to give a little back to the NHS by making your views heard, sharing your experiences and helping to shape and improve health services now and in the future.

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